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Paulo Mendes da Rocha (1928–2021)

Paulo Mendes da Rocha (1928–2021)


Paulo Mendes da Rocha (1928–2021)

Acclaimed Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha died on May 23 of lung cancer in São Paulo at the age of ninety-two. The news was confirmed by his son Pedro Mendes da Rocha. A towering figure in international architecture, though most of his structures are in Brazil, Paulo Mendes da Rocha was known as the father of Brazilian brutalism and was renowned for rigorous public designs that were at once poetic and socially conscious, typically rendered in affordable concrete and steel. He is widely credited with modernizing the appearance of São Paulo through the many cultural buildings he designed there.Born in Vitória, Espírito Santo, Brazil, in 1928, Mendes da Rocha graduated from the Architecture College of São Paulo’s Mackenzie University in 1954 and opened his own office the following year. He quickly became known as part of the so-called Paulista School; eschewing curves in favor of blocky, exposed concrete structures, the avant-garde movement additionally counted João Batista Vilanova Artigas, Joaquim Gedes, and Oswaldo Bratke among its members.In 1958, at the age of twenty-nine, Mendes da Rocha completed one of his earliest and best known commissions, São Paulo’s Paulistano Athletic Club, characterized by its distinctive saucer shape. Other major projects in that city include the 1987 Chapel of Saint Peter, with its broad concrete columns and airy glass walls; the 1988 Brazilian Museum of Sculpture, notable for the massive raised concrete beam that shelters its exterior plaza; and the 1993 State Museum of São Paulo, embodying austere expanses of pale brick. With Jorge Caron, Júlio Katinsky and Ruy Otake, he designed the Brazilian Pavilion at Osaka, Japan’s Expo ’70.Teaching remained an integral part of Mendes da Rocha’s practice throughout a large part of his career. In 1961, he accepted the job of professor at the Architecture College of the University of São Paulo (FAO-USP), where he taught until 1969, when he was forced out by the military dictatorship then in power. He returned FAO-USP in 1980, retiring from the school in 1998. He won the Mies van der Rohe Prize in 2000 and the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s highest accolade, in 2006; in 2016, he was awarded the Venice Biennale’s Golden Lion for lifetime achievement, and the following year he won the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Royal Gold Medal. In September of last year, he donated his nearly 9,000-piece archive relating to more than three hundred projects to Portugal’s Casa de Arquitectura.


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